As a non-religious spiritual path, Yoga is able to combine with, and enhance, the beliefs of many religious students. This Axis Yoga Teacher Training student achieved “complete bliss and an ineffable sense of spiritual fulfillment” through a combined study of Christianity and Yoga. And experienced the inevitable ebb and flow of trying to maintain a consistent spiritual routine. The account below shows how this student’s efforts result in a deeper connection with the true Self.
Tag Archive for: Self-realization
For my third experiment I chose to explore deeper growth in my personal Self-realization and spiritual relationship with God through an increase of my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda’s (Author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi) suggested meditation techniques. In a series of lessons he suggested to practice these techniques faithfully every morning and night as part of regular spiritual routine. The first part of the routine included, the recommended series of 15 energization exercises, which Yogananda discovered in 1916 for the all-round well-being of the body and to help strengthen the muscles, purify the bloodstream and to help attain conscious control of the life force. When you have mastered the technique of conscious life-force control, the restlessness and sense perceptions of the body will cease to be obstacles to the attainment of the higher meditative states (Yogananda, P., Self Realization Fellowship Lessons, S-1 P-8-A, 1954). The energization exercises were followed by Yogananda’s recommended asana mudras to prepare the body for meditation. In addition, I chose an affirmation of which both guided my spiritual and personal aspirations. Next, I implemented three yogic pranayama techniques as follows: Hong-Sau technique of concentration, Aum technique and finally the practice of Kriya Yoga, which was reintroduced in modern times by Lahiri Mahasaya (Paramahansa Yogananda’s guru), and according to his teachings is “the greatest form of pranayama, control of the subtle life currents” (Self Realization Fellowship Lessons, 1956). Finally, after each morning and evening practice I recorded my thoughts and experiences in a journal, of which communicated positive growth in both my spiritual progress and journey towards Self-realization.
My exploration of Self-realization began after approximately ten years studying and practicing various methodologies of yoga and coming to a point where I yearned for a more pure and experiential connection with the divine. I found I wasn’t receiving enough spiritual growth from either my yoga practice in various studios or from the Christian church. Somehow I wanted to synthesize the two practices of my faith and upbringing with going to a Christian church with my yoga practice. After sharing these concerns with a Christian friend who also actively participated in the yoga community, he suggested I read Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. I was instantly enthralled with the countless gems of yogic wisdom within the pages of the book and yearned to know more. Thereafter, I joined the local Denver Meditation Group for meditation services and subscribed to the Self-Realization Fellowship lessons. I completely immersed myself in the teachings, which included meditation and pranayama. The very first lesson explains, “Through application of the moral and esoteric principles of original Christianity and of original Yoga presented in these teachings—especially the simple techniques of meditation handed down to us by the Gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship—you will discover a life divine” (SRF Lessons, pg. 1, 1956). During this time of spiritual growth I recall feeling entirely elated, as I had finally found a home with my new spiritual path and at the same time frustrated with why I had not made the discovery earlier in my life! The teachings also contain, “basic spiritual truths that develop man’s potentialities for living a godly life” (1956, p.1). Shortly after receiving and implementing the teachings, I felt complete bliss and an ineffable sense of spiritual fulfillment. I found I could merge my close relationship with my Christian background into yoga, of which resulted in my ultimate and authentic experiential connection with the divine.
Even though I have had access to these treasured teachings for over five years, my practice has ebbed and flowed. I have often resisted them, felt too busy, lazy, or too tired to find the energy to implement the practices into my daily routine. After I reflected upon my recent journal entries, I recognized the need to adjust the length of my meditations and at the very least have the mentality to try and implement them at least once a day even if it means for a short period of time. I also discerned I must try and let go of my perfectionist tendencies towards meditation and strive more for consistency. I began to understand I should try and have less of an all or nothing attitude and find alternative ways to include these essential spiritual traditions into my life. For example, I found at times I needed to surrender to the fact I might need to break the routine into smaller pieces, or do them at different times of the day depending on what each day would bring. Thus, another reason why I conducted this experiment was because I predicted it would give me more of an incentive to stick to a regimented routine. Even though most days I was able to fit the techniques into my schedule, there were a few days over Thanksgiving where I had to remind myself to do just a little instead of nothing. Ultimately, I gained better insight into the need to let go of my need to do everything perfectly, which surprisingly included my approach to my meditation practice.
Another motivation to choose this task for my third experiment was to seek (and am still seeking) clarification of how I can serve humanity after receiving my 200-hour yoga certification. I am at a crossroads in my life where there are many different directions I can go with my next career choice. Additionally, I sought (and continue to seek) peace amidst an extremely stressful and anxious time, which is a result from many changes in my life in a short amount of time. Having recently moved to a new area of Colorado, gotten married and enrolled in a yoga teacher training I have had my hands full. Another motive behind the experiment was to practice going really deep into my meditations to find the quiet space within in order to fully hear the voice of the divine. I recognized from my journal entries the more consistent my meditation practice, the deeper my meditations became and the clearer my Self-realizations. According to the SRF lessons,
“The real meaning of any scripture can be known only through direct experience. That inner knowledge is accessible to all men who attain soul- perception or Self-Realization. Followers of all creeds may apply Self- Realization Fellowship teachings: basic spiritual truths that develop man’s potentialities for living a godly life. Our humble desire is to help you, through these teachings, to expand your consciousness until you understand by your own Self-realization the eternal Truth behind all great religions, and to foster goodwill and universal brotherhood in the name of the one God” (Introduction to Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, 1956, p.1).
Even though I have experienced many deep, blissful meditations and felt one with God, I wanted to know more about my purpose and how to go about, “fostering goodwill and universal brotherhood in the name of the one God”. Another motive for the experiment was to meditate deeply enough to still and calm my mind to think clearly about ways I can also implement more service into my life while also fostering goodwill and universal brotherhood.
Some of the Self-realizations from my meditations were in relation to my next career path and inclination to personally “foster goodwill and universal brotherhood” (1956). Many of these were similar to others I have contemplated over the years, but in conjunction with this focused experiment I was able to gain more clarity and openness to the reality of importance of doing my best to bring some if not all areas to fruition in the future. Among the realizations I had over the course of a couple of weeks included teaching yoga classes to those in my new community: farmers, gardeners, Christians in the Lutheran church, the elderly and factory workers. These are special populations of which may not otherwise have access to yoga outside the mainstream and of whom I would feel comfortable teaching. Next, I continue to have a strong desire to teach mindfulness and yoga to youth to help decrease anxiety, especially since I have struggled with anxiety in my life, especially in my years as a teen. Additionally, I am inspired to teach yoga to teenage girls with a focus on body image and self-love. This is also an area I battled with as a youth and feel I could have benefitted from learning yoga at that age. Finally, I felt guided to teach yoga to athletes and to help them incorporate visualization techniques into their individual and team sport practices. My high school track coach used visualization techniques to prepare our team for track events. From my personal experience, this is an area of team building that was extremely effective and can carry into other areas of life. Even though this experiment did assist me with getting quiet enough to listen to God to help me gather ideas, I now realize I need to listen and gain a better understanding of the needs of my new community in Northern Colorado. This will set me up to create an optimum match with my strengths to special populations and their greatest needs. I plan to continue this journey by talking to other experts in the field and with people in my community after the conclusion of my yoga training
Overall this personal experiment has tranquilly propelled me deeper into my connection with the divine light and exploration of Self-realization. This process has guided me towards clarity in a variety of inclinations to serve humanity. Expansion of my meditation practices coupled with letting go of my perfectionist tendencies uncovered several areas where I can contribute to my community through yoga. Hereafter, my intention is to continue to meditate upon these Self-realizations and to visualize confidence in myself to carry these ideas into reality. Ultimately, I know I need to follow my Guru’s teachings as best I can even if just for a few minutes every day. This approach will best prepare me to plant the seeds necessary to accomplish my Self-realized intentions towards a much greater mission of love and service to all humanity. My faithful connection with the divine combined with loving and serving others goes hand in hand; for me to truly live up to my full God given potential, I must have both in order to reach authentic Self-Realization.
“Everything else can wait, but your search for God cannot wait” (Paramahansa Yogananda) and love one another (George Harrison). These were George Harrison’s last words before he passed.
Yogananda, P. (1956) Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. Los Angeles, CA.
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